Friday, May 29, 2015

Daredevil is Catholic (so far)

Superman (although born pagan and raised Methodist) has a very Calvinist ethos. Dude is SAVED, right? Once and for all.* Superman's heroism is predestined. But not Daredevil. His friends, and even he himself, aren't always sure whether he is doing the right thing.

He and the villain he hopes to bring down have pretty much exactly the same goals. And rather similar motivations. And their techniques vary only in (important) details.

Daredevil is working out his salvation in fear and trembling. Daredevil is Catholic.

It's always problematic to endorse a show before they've stopped making it, because you just never know where they're going to take it. It's especially dangerous to pronounce that a show is "Catholic" or even that its values are in the right place. But, hey, I like to live dangerously.

I really enjoyed this show. And I appreciated seeing Catholic themes and struggles fairly portrayed on mainstream TV.

Comic writer Frank Miller, on whose "Born Again" story arc the Netflix show Marvel's Daredevil is based, has said, "I figured Daredevil must be Catholic because only a Catholic could be both an attorney and a vigilante." (via)

He's no Man of Steel, impervious to pain or injury. We see him beaten, broken. He is seriously hurt every time he goes out to fight bad guys. But he keeps getting up and getting back in the fight.

He's no millionaire playboy with a basement full of ridiculously awesome technology at his disposal. He has to work for a living. By day, he upholds the law, trusting a jury to make the right call. By night, he's the judge and jury, punishing bad guys with his own two hands. (Literally. He eschews guns. And the fact that he doesn't kill any of the bad guys seems to be mostly on purpose.)

Even his superpowers are born of weakness. He has extraordinarily heightened senses of hearing, and smell, and kinesthetics, but only as a result of the car accident that robbed him of his sight.

Perhaps even more central to his life as a crime-fighter are the lessons young Matt learned from his father, a tenacious but troubled professional boxer. Battlin' Jack Murdoch was never knocked out. Beaten, yes, but always on his feet. Daredevil is the same way. Dude gets his Butt. Kicked. Every night. But he drags himself up again and keeps fighting through the pain.

Oh, and there's his faith.

Claire: On top of that, you can take an unbelievable amount of punishment without one damn complaint.
Matt: That last part's the Catholicism.

Religion and superheroes can be tough to sort out. Most of the well-known comic book superheroes have a religious affiliation, assigned to them by their (largely Jewish) creators. As a writer, if you want to know a character, and understand his motivations, you'd, of course, have to understand his faith.

But, for the vast majority of them, that faith is nothing more than back story.

Daredevil, throughout his long-running comic (which I haven't read), through multiple writers and reboots, in his movie (which I haven't seen), and now in this TV series (which I have seen), has consistently been a notable exception to the rule. His religion is a deep part of who he is.

Daredevil isn't, ya know, a GOOD Catholic, but he is a Catholic. In the opening scene of the Netflix show, it's clear that he doesn't understand how confession works. But he's there. And the priest DOES understand how confession works, so that's nice. That same priest features prominently throughout this first season. His advice is consistently empathetic and theologically sound.

Matt: I'm not seeking penance for what I've done, Father, I'm asking forgiveness for what I'm about to do.     
Priest: That's not how this works.

Daredevil/Matt Murdoch has been a comic book character through many decades and many writers. It's my understanding that in that medium, he doesn't always live out Catholic moral teaching in his personal life. But THIS review is on the Netflix show. And in season one of this show, he does. There are multiple allusions by other characters to how Matt "does well with the ladies." But what that means precisely isn't confirmed by Matt or shown on screen. As far as we know from watching this show, he is a good Catholic boy.

Matt Murdoch spends this season in much the same state as Seeley Booth was when we met him in the first season of Bones. Both men have a deep sense of the Truth of Catholicism, and are searching for answers in religion to the difficult questions posed by their career choices.

Priest: It's all right, seal of confessional. Anything you said during the Sacrament of Penance stays between us. You could have killed ten people. I couldn't tell anyone.

Nine seasons later, it's clear that Booth isn't willing to move from a faith of ideas to one of actions. And it's clear that the writers of that show think that theology of the body doesn't apply to attractive people.

If every other show that's ever been on TV is any indication, Daredevil will go down the same way next season. And I will be sad. But, for THIS season anyway, Daredevil is Catholic.

* except for 2013's Man of Steel, directed by a guy who is awesome at making Batman movies but who doesn't seem to understand the character of Superman.

p.s. There is a scene of other non-married characters waking up together. There's no nudity, but there is some language. And a LOT of graphic violence. I had to employ the "hand over the gross part of the screen" many times, but that works for me. It is rated MA. I would recommend it for teens and adults.

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.

Have you seen Daredevil yet? What did you think?

You might also enjoy . . .

Bless Me Father, for I'm a Catholic on a TV Show

There's a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Fracture a Fairy Tale . . . 

Maleficent vs Cinderella and the Heroes We Give Our Children


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kids Cook for Themselves: A Universal Smoothie Recipe

I am, in general, a big advocate of kids doing stuff for themselves. It's like they say, give a kid a fish . . . no, wait, that doesn't seem like a good idea. Maybe don't do that.

Anyway. My desire to have my big kids be able to cook, is often at war with my desire to NOT have it take three times as long for me to cook dinner. And, let's face it, letting kids help cook makes it take MUCH longer. But I've found it IS worth it in the long run, because eventually they can do it on their own and I don't have to suffer watching them do it not exactly how I would do it.

We started small, for my benefit as much as for theirs, and now all of my kids older than seven are capable of warming up leftovers, or cooking simple things like scrambled eggs, all by themselves.

And my three oldest are able to follow recipes and make meals from scratch. And they even like it! With a new baby coming in a couple of months, the big kids are planning to do quite a bit of the cooking for our family this summer. I've been helping them compile the recipes that they've made successfully, and I figured I'd share a few of them with you, every once in a while.

First up . . .

I'm a big fan of smoothies because they combine healthy, tasty, and NOT THROWING AWAY FOOD into one easy recipe that's appropriate for any time of day.

Any time our fresh fruit starts to get past its prime, I peel it, cut it into chunks, throw it into a ziploc bag, and put it in the freezer. And the kids use it to make smoothies. (When necessary, I buy some already frozen.)

It turns out that a very easy, three ingredient recipe works for pretty much any type of smoothie, and that my kids eight and over are all capable of making it completely on their own.

All it takes is any kind of frozen fruit, any kind of juice, and yoghurt (I always use Mountain High whole milk plain in the super giant Costco size, 'cause that's how we roll).

Betty (11) has graciously agreed to walk us through how to make one. Take it away Betty . . .

Okay, here goes.

Get your ingredients together: some frozen fruit, some juice, and some yoghurt. This time I used a mix of frozen berries, cranberry juice, and plain whole milk yoghurt.

You can make your smoothie in a blender, food processor, or right in a cup if you've got a hand blender. Whatever you're using, fill your container two-thirds full of frozen fruit.

Then, pour in juice until it covers the fruit.

Scoop in yoghurt until the container is almost full, but not completely full, because there needs to be room for it to blend.

Put the top on and hold it tight.

Blend on medium-high (I use "puree") until it's all mixed up.

And pour into glasses to serve.

Babies like it.

Mason Jar Straw Top is from an Etsy shop called Blue Ridge Crafts. I put them right in the dishwasher and they've lasted us for years.

Brothers like it.

Even FRANKIE likes it.

And I like it too!

Another good one is frozen bananas (I don't even like bananas, but you can't really taste them) and mango, leftover fresh squeezed orange juice from our Sunday breakfast, and yoghurt.

It's even better with cute straws.

Lulu approves. 

It's really easy. All kids should give it a try!

Me again . . . Thanks to Betty for helping out with this post, and to Mountain High Yoghurt for sponsoring it. You can go here to sign up for a dollar off coupon, if you're into that sort of thing.

In case you want to pin it, you can use the link at the bottom of the post, and I made this image to go with it . . . 

Stay tuned for over the next few weeks for more real recipes kids can cook themselves! And if you've got any smoothie combinations you love, please let me know in the comments.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Using PicMonkey to Create Images that Win On Pinterest

Hey all! We are back home after a truly amazing ten days of family fun and hands on history on the East coast. I've got a bunch of upcoming posts I'm excited to share with you, including the big trip recap, my latest Netflix binge watch, and the beginning of a new series on the blog called "kids cook for themselves" featuring recipes that big kids can can make all by themselves, freeing YOU up to spend more time reading blogs.

But FIRST . . . I know I said I was done with the PicMonkey posts, but I was wrong.

Nancy from Do Small Things With Love saw my earlier posts and offered to give us all some tips on using PicMonkey for Pinterest. And since I KNOW I'm not using Pinterest as well as I could be . . . I accepted.
using pic monkey to create images that win on pinterest

Hi, my name is Nancy, I blog at, and I am addicted to Pinterest traffic. As bloggers we all know that any sort of traffic is good--but I get about 80% of my traffic from Pinterest. Because of that traffic I have been able to turn my blog into a business that is actually contributing to my family financially right now. And here's the thing ladies, more Catholic Bloggers need to join me on Pinterest because it can be such a powerful way to share your content. There is only one social media network with the sole and absolute purpose of sharing content. Pinterest. Sure, more people use Twitter, but for all sort so reasons, only one of which is sharing content. Sure, Facebook is more personal, but with the constantly changing logarithms it often feels impossible to reach all of your followers. And so, it is time to give Pinterest another try. We do this through creating Pinnable Images. Before you tune me out hear this: Pinterest is used to share all sorts of content--not just recipes and crafts. In fact some of the all-time most popular pins have nothing to do with food or hot glue. No matter what you blog about you should be adding pinnable images to most of your posts. Not all of your posts (we'll cover this in a minute). Kendra has laid out exactly how to use PicMonkey to make your photos great. Now it's time to add just a few details to this so that your images can win on Pinterest as well. Before I dive in I just want to note that, as with all social media networks, there can be a lot of strategy that goes into using Pinterest as a blogger. I am not going to cover growing your pinterest following, group boards, rich pins, scheduling pins, switching to a business account or promoting pins. If you are serious about using pinterest to grow your blog I recommend googling these topics as the internet is rich with information on Pinterest. The following 10 tips will make your images "Pinnable"--and all of this can be done using PicMonkey.

1. Is This Post Pinnable?

Start here and ask yourself is this post pinnable? To be pinnable a post has to be:
  • Evergreen--meaning it is timeless. A post recapping your family's trip to San Francisco is, um, not timeless. However, Kendra's post on the Mommy Wars is totally timeless (cause we will always be flawed), and therefore pinnable.
  • Intended for the Masses--Pinterest is impersonal. We are all just scrolling through and clicking on pretty images that catch our eye, so in order for a post to be pinnable any one and everyone should be able to jump into this post, having never been on your blog before, and enjoy it.
  • A Problem Solver--This is the most important question to answer. In what way are you offering help to those that read? Are you offering tips, tricks, a recipe or advice? Are you sharing a personal story others can learn from? Are you answering a question lots of people have? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your post is pinnable and needs a pinnable image.


2. Vertical Images are a MUST on Pinterest

pinterest 1

Just check out a normal Pinterest feed and you will see why vertical images on Pinterest are a must Simply put, vertical pictures get more real estate on Pinterest. Just check out that Ultimate BLT pin! On the flip side, Facebook does better with horizontal images. I know this sounds like a lot work, but for the posts I have really worked on and really want to take off, I often edit and create 2 images--one for pinterest and one for Facebook. Once you get this in your routine it really doesn't take that much more time, just moving the text, cropping and saving the same image twice. Here are the 2 images I created for a post I recently wrote about waiting to have sex until marriage:

For Pinterest

we were virgins on our wedding day and why that is awesome

 And for Facebook:

we were virgins fb


3. Crop Closer

full tutorial for making watercolor portraits, the easy way!

When creating pinnable images always keep in mind what a Pinterest feed looks like: image after image after image. For this reason you really want yours to stand out! Don't waste space on background or scenery. Use PicMonkey to crop your image in nice and tight, without loosing any of the picture's quality. Here is one of my most pinned posts ever, Easy Watercolor Portraits. As you can see I used several images for this "Pinnable Image", but each one is cropped nice and close so you can see exactly what is happening. Creating a collage like this is also something you can do in PicMonkey. Simply select the collage option on the front page. Then, upload the pictures you'd like to use and drop them into place. After you have them collaged your pictures you can easily click over to do some basic edits on the collage as a whole.
picmonkey collage

Once again--just make sure your collage "Pinnable Image" is vertical!

4. Create Images that are WARM and BRIGHT

Loads and loads of research has been done to see which pins on Pinterest get interaction, and which don't. Over and over the pins that were BRIGHT and WARM got clicks and repins, so when selecting your image look for one that is nice and bright--and by that I mean "true white". Kendra did an excellent job discussing how to brighten images with PicMonkey, so I won't go into that but it is well worth it to spend a few minutes in the editor brightening up your pinnable image. Also, opt for images with warm colors, like reds and yellows, over pictures with cool colors like blues.

5. Leave Room For Wording

A pinnable image is 2 things--an image and words--not an image under words. Although I already stressed cropping your pictures nice and close, make sure you don't crop too close. You want to leave room for your wording. Check out this example:

How to Thrive when your husband travels

Because I knew this post had a long title I left lots of space for wording and added an overlay so that my wording stood out a little bit better.

6. Keep Wording Brief and CLEAR

Remember that Pinterest is all about IMAGES--so don't go overboard with the wording. Pick fonts that stand out and write a title that will engage your audience immediately! For example, instead of writing, "when your husband is traveling it is possible to stay happy," I wrote, "How to Thrive when your husband travels." The title I choose offers something to the reader and uses more emotional words--making it more likely to pull in a reader.

7. Add a By-Line

Most of my pinnable images offer a title and a by-line. The title is intended to pull people in and the by-line works as a tiny preview of the article. Once again, keep it simple and direct. As both a reader and a writer I am attracted to lists and so very often my by-line is something like "7 Lessons on Motherhood I Learned from Mary". Or, sometimes the by-line simply explains the title further. I recently shared a post called "Bonded Through Work" with the by line, "Creating A Family That Works Together"

8. Create a Word-Only Image

you are officially stay at home mom when

Sometimes adding a picture as the pinnable image for a post just doesn't seem quite right. For these situations I simply use the tricks Kendra covered in THIS POST and create a word-only image (or word art). Here is an example of a word-only pinnable image I made. To make a word-only image, start with the "design" option on the front page of PicMonkey.

picmonkey no pic
picmonkey design

From there I often select a "texture" to add to my image. There are lots of great options here. In the above pinnable image I used a "chalkboard" texture. Below I have selected a crumpled paper look. After I have the background I'm after (sometimes I even layer textures for a unique look) all that is left is adding wording and Kendra has done an excellent job covering this already.

9. Be Consistent in Your Editing

When you set to work creating "Pinnable Images" you are really working to create beautiful images--images that communicate who you and your blog are. Chances are you have put considerable time and energy into styling your blog in terms of fonts, colors and images--and you should work to let that style show through in your images. All I am trying to say here is that you should deliberately choose which fonts to use in your pinnable images and work to use those fonts in each image. Each pinnable image won't be the same, but they should have traces of the same style. Also, try to use the same sorts of overlays. Ideally (and likely a ways down the road) a reader should know it's your image before they see your logo.

10. Save Images as Your Pin Description

If you get nothing else from this post, get this--Save Your Image as The Description You'd Like It To Have on Pinterest. If your image is saved as "IMG123456" than that will likely be the default description Pinterest will use. Sure, a pinner might take the time to write a wonderful description for you, but they might not. So, take a minute to write a description in that "save as" box, even if it is long and obnoxious. The habit of naming your pictures this way is something you should really work to do as it will also help boost your SEO, but that's another topic entirely. Okay, did I cover everything? I hope this isn't overwhelming--but just helpful. Serious Catholic bloggers belong on Pinterest too and I hope that these tips help you take advantage of this powerful social network. Thanks to Kendra for letting me be with you today! I'd love to connect with you either at my blog, on facebook or (of course) on pinterest. Name Picture 

Whew! Thanks Nancy. I've got a lot to work on.

In case you missed any of the earlier PicMonkey posts, you can catch up on them here . . . 

Using PicMonkey to Make Word Art


Using PicMonkey to Make Graphic Designs and Pinnable Images


Don't Make These Mistakes Using PicMonkey to Make Shareable Images


Using PicMonkey to Make Good Photos Great and Bad Photos Pretty Good

And if you'd care to see my sub-optimal use of Pinterest with your own two eyes, you'll find me here.



Friday, May 22, 2015

Using PicMonkey to Make Word Art

We're out of town, so I thought I'd take this week to share with you some of the tips and tricks I use on PicMonkey to make this blog prettier. This is installment four of four, also see Lesson 1: Using PicMoney to Make Good Photos Great and Bad Photos Pretty Good, Lesson 2: Don't Make These Mistakes Using PicMonkey to Make Shareable Images, and Lesson 3: Using PicMonkey to Create Graphic Designs and Pinnable Images. PicMonkey is an online photo editing and design site. The basic version is free, but you can also choose a yearly subscription to "Royale" that gets you more options, and no ads. This is not a sponsored post, I just like PicMonkey. This post contains affiliate links.

In previous posts, I've discussed how I use PicMonkey for photos and graphic images, but sometimes, you just want to let the words do the talking.

I know *I* do. Quite often.

For examples of all the different types of text-focused images I've made with PicMonkey, check out my Printable Prayers board on Pinterest.

But for today, let's take a step-by-step look at two word art images I made recently.

As with the graphic images I make, it's all just trial and error, and lots of fiddling around with it until I get something with which I am happy. Mostly, you just have to try it and see what happens.

- Credo: I Believe -

I made this one at the request of my friend Molly, from Molly Makes Do, and The Credo Project. The Credo Project is a simple way for Catholic bloggers to give their readers a quick, easy, non-pushy way to find out more about the Catholic faith, with just one click of a button on their blog sidebar.

The only direction I got was, that it should say Credo: I Believe.

After brainstorming for a bit, I decided I couldn't do better than putting the text of the Nicene Creed behind the words, since that is what we as Catholics profess to believe.

1. Step one was to put in the text, which I began to do by cut and pasting chunks of it.

2. I thought I'd have different sections in different fonts and colors. But it looked lame. And wasn't going to fit.

3. So I just did it all in one block and one font.

4. Then I made myself a color palate. From the Overlays Menu, I went to Geometric. I wanted five colors, so I put five circles onto my image, then I selected a different color for each circle, playing around with it until I had a group that I liked together. Then I shoved them way over to one side. I also resized my text box a bit, so I could get to the whole thing.

5. I selected little chunks of the text, and using the Eyedropper Tool, selected the color from one of my five color spots. I went through the whole text, changing the text colors bit by bit in order of my color spots.

6.  I moved my color spots over off of my image, but they are still there (you can see the square outline there of the orange one) because I'm going to pull them back over and use them again later. And I faded my text to create a more subtle background.

7. Then I made my foreground text. On that little horizontal menu above the image there is an option to "combine all image elements." If I did that before I started adding the foreground, I wouldn't have to worry about layers and trying to select which text box I'm working on. But I really, really hate to do it, because then it becomes the permanent background and I can't fiddle with it any more. So I pretty much never do that. What I do instead, is drag my foreground text boxes out over the edge of the image, so I can go out there and easily grab the edge of the text box I want to edit.

8. I changed the colors of the foreground text. More fiddling.

9. Then I wasn't loving the background font and started messing with it. This one was too hard to see.

10. Too round.

11. Too busy.

12. Close but no.

13. I ended up going with a different font entirely, adding more text to the version for the button, and adding my watermark for the printable prayers version. I moved the color spots off the image again and saved it and it's a done deal.

As with all my printables, you are welcome to right click on the image and save it to your computer for your own personal use. You may print the images and / or upload them and have prints made for your personal use or to give as gifts. (These are sized for 8x10 or square but will print well much bigger.) You may use my images on your blog, just please link back to my blog. If you would like to sell my images, please contact me first. To request a custom printable, visit my Etsy shop here.

For LOTS MORE free printable prayers, check out my Pinterest board.

If you'd like to get the html code to put the button on your blog sidebar, go to the bottom of this post

- Thomas Merton Quote -

This one was a request from reader Theresa M, whose older brother is a novice entering the Abbey where Thomas Merton lived and is buried. Pretty. Awesome. She wanted it to look kinda like the Grace Before and After Meals prints I made, but be in teal or turquoise on a light background.

1. As always, the first step is to put the text of the quote on there and start messing about with it.

2. I kinda can't help myself with the making the "o" in "love" a heart instead. It's how I roll.

3. I just kept changing the fonts around until I liked it.

4. Then I started messing with the colors.

5. And messing.

6. And messing. Until it looked right.

7. When a quote or prayer doesn't have enough words to fill the space, I add Overlays.

8. And, if necessary, right click on them to open up this little menu, which allows me to Send to Back, so it's behind the text.

9. I selected colors for the overlays, using the Eyedropper Tool when I wanted to match colors in other parts of the image..

10. I used the fade bar on some of the overlays, to make sure the text was visible. And this one I liked, so I saved it.

11. I wanted to have another version with a colored background, so once it was saved, I went to the Basic Edits Menu, selected Canvas Color, and tried to find a color I liked. NOT this one.

12. This one I liked. But then I wasn't feeling the gray in the overlays.

13. So, using the Eyedropper tool, I made them the blues of the text, and then faded them down to different levels. For variety. And then I saved this one.

14. But then I was feeling like all that love really needed a little pink. So I used the little "undo" arrow in the horizontal menu over the image and backed it up until the canvas was white again. I started clicking on overlays and making them shades of pink, to give me one more version. And I saved that one, too.

And here they are:

There are a ton of other things you can do with PicMonkey, of course. You can make collages, and Facebook headers, and all sorts of other things. But this has got to stop somewhere, right? So I'm stopping it here.

I hope you found the series helpful. Let me know if you have any burning PicMonkey questions that weren't answered this week. We'll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week.

Have a blessed Pentecost and a fun Memorial Day!